Telstra has its eyes set on a future when a GP consultation won't require a trip to the doctor's surgery, with the launch of its ReadyCare eHealth service.
Designed for Australians in remote areas, and for times when visiting a surgery is more difficult, such as at night, on weekends or when patients are travelling, ReadyCare will allow Australians to conduct consultations with a GP via the phone, 24 hours a day. Telstra also plans to expand ReadyCare in future so any GP can use the service to communicate with their regular patients.
The launch is part of a larger pivot towards eHealth services by the telco as part of its Telstra Health division. In April, Telstra launched the MyCareManager online health monitoring service for the disability, community and aged care sectors, and while the company is also eyeing off eHealth for hospitals and the government sector.
ReadyCare is now one of the first significant steps in eHealth that the average consumer will be able to engage with. By using the ReadyCare app or dialling 1800 READYCARE, patients can receive "advice, treatment, diagnosis and prescriptions" using both phone and video connections.
Users will first speak with an assistant to determine if their issue can be solved remotely, and then ReadyCare will organise for a GP to call back "at a time that suits the patient."
The service will be run out of the Sydney suburb of Alexandria operating with four registered Australian doctors during peak periods, though Telstra says it will have "the ability to scale the service when demand increases." There is also capacity in the long-term for doctors to work remotely.
Managing Director of Telstra Health Shane Solomon said the "digital revolution" could help all Australians to experience the benefits of eHealth.
"This will provide choice and convenience for people to access a GP regardless of their location or the time of day, particularly in circumstances when they find it hard to access a face to face doctor," he said. "Patients can talk with a GP using phone or video, upload images of their condition and receive comprehensive care."
There is currently no Medicare rebate available for services, meaning patients will have to pay the full AU$75.90 fee per consultation (AU$69 plus GST). However, Telstra says the service offers "quality, efficiency, safety and consumer value" and that a trip to a non-bulk billing doctor leaves patients roughly AU$40 out of pocket, "so we think the price is right for the added convenience."
The company is also in talks with businesses such as travel and health insurers and "big corporate" clients who will provide "tailored pricing models."